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Feb. 21st, 2011 06:45 pm Undertaking to my son - hope I can stick to it

Inevitably over the course of time I am going to get old and feeble.  I may also end up ill and/or in constant pain.  The consequence of this may be that I am a total pain to be anywhere near.  I hope that you will have enough affection left to give me some of the care I will need, but I hope that you do not have to do it through constantly gritted teeth.  To try to make things easier for you and your blood pressure, to say nothing of whatever sense of duty towards me that you may have, I undertake to try to do the following:-


  1. If I need your help, I will ask, without any reference to (a) your better nature, (b) the number of times I wiped your bottom when you were small.  I will make a straightforward request, with no moral blackmail involved.  After all, I brought you up.  If you are too selfish to help your parents occasionally, then it is probably my fault.
  2. If in response to my request, you end up giving up a lot of time, I will try to notice and thank you properly, and really, I ought to recompense you as well.  Your time is probably much more valuable than mine these days.
  3. I will try to retain interest in the outside world.  I may feel rotten inside, but who wants to know?  If there is little that can be done about it, then paying attention to something other than myself will be salutary for my relationships with other people and may distract me from my own discomfort.
  4. I will try to make sure that as far as possible, I take steps to deal with failing vision, hearing, mobility or other such failing of the body.  Science has many answers to such problems, and it is not always necessary to be deaf, blind or immobile, especially if one has a little money tucked away.  I will also try to remember that failing to do this is a rudeness to the whole world.
  5. I will try to retain awareness of my increased limitations and avoid doing things which aggravate any condition which is making me fragile.
  6. Generally, I will try to look after myself properly for as long as I can.  If I won’t, why should I expect anyone else to?
  7. When offered a choice on any matter at all, I will try to make a decision on my own, but if I fail, I will accept what I am given with reasonably convincing gratitude.  I will not in any circumstance complain about your failure to divine my unexpressed wishes.
  8. If I hang onto some of my money, it is for myself, not you at some indeterminate future date, by which time it may be worthless to you anyway.  I will try not to become miserly in the hope of attracting pity for my simulated poverty.  Assuming I have not fallen out with you in a big way, I certainly don’t want the tax man to take it and waste it.  I will try to spend some of it to save you trouble in looking after me.  It is after all no use of itself sitting in some bank account – its use is what it will buy.
  9. If in spite of doing all of the above I still feel sorry for myself, then I will try to keep it to myself.  Should I deserve pity, then indeed I hope I get a bit, but expecting it by right will detract from my personal dignity.  I hope that dignity is strong enough to keep me to all the above.
  10. Finally, when I fail from time to time, don’t be too afraid to tell me.


But please remember also – one day, you too will be in this condition.  Don’t forget.

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Jan. 25th, 2010 01:47 pm Linux security - SELinux versus Samba

Linux is soooo clever, nearly too clever for me.  I decided to upgrade my Fedora box from v8 to v12.  Not sure why, looking back, but eventually I managed to get where I was hoping to, with the exception of the Samba server.

One of the tasks this box does for me is to host Squeezebox Server with my digital music collection. The music is stored in a folder that is shared using Samba, so that I can download from a Windows box if necessary. All was running smoothly on my old setup, so formatting the disk and starting from scratch was in retropsect rather daring.

To start with, it seemed easy enough.  I had archived my old smb.conf, so I created the same directory structure, restored my data backup and started up Samba.

What was so strange was not being able to see individual files when I could see the folders. I must have fiddled with smb.conf dozens of times, to no effect.

Finally, a post about SELinux caught my eye from this nice man Dan Walsh. Somehow, I twigged that it was SELinux causing my problem. Samba has its own SELinux 'context' for shared files and I simply had the wrong one set.  Thirty seconds later, my files magically appeared in the share window on my Windows laptop.

So, Dan, thanks!

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Dec. 24th, 2008 02:39 pm Christmas eve

Doesn't really feel like Christmas.  Was too mean to buy a tree.  At least, I wou;dn't pay full price, and when I went to somewhere where they were selling the last ones cheap, only the ugly ones were left. 

So it's out to the garden to find a bit of something green.

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Apr. 21st, 2008 03:25 pm Albeniz

Just found this delightful rendering of the 'Leyenda' here.  Albeniz is a particular love of mine.  I started off with the Alicia de Larrocha recordings of Iberia but then I discovered Miguel Baselga, whose slightly more robust performance I prefer.  It's a chap thing.  Were I playing to seduce the woman of my dreams, I'd choose this.  But both performers are glorious.  The sheet music can be difficult to find, but not impossible.

Happily, the people at the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music seem to like Albeniz as well and often include a piece in their exam repertoire.  I thank them and commend them.

I am never sure whether I prefer the 'Pavana Muy Facil' or the complex chromaticism of Iberia ('El Polo' is my favourite, but it's a difficult choice).  I am currently studing 'Rumores de la Caleta', which I would describe as 'deceptively simple'!  Sadly, 'El Polo' is beyond my technique and powers of memory, but it always makes me think of Manzanilla sherry with tapas of baked chorizo.

Interesting to compare with some of Gershwin's more complex work (yes, some of it is even more complex than the rest!) and see that Albeniz was certainly breaking new ground and that some elements of his Spanish rhythms would appear to have worked through somehow to Gershwin.  Must pin down exactly where this struck me.  Might be some of the 'I got rhythm' variations?

Current Music: Albeniz - El Polo, Lavapies

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Apr. 21st, 2008 01:30 pm Speed limits

I biked over to Norfolk at the weekend.  A friend had organised a weekend's sailing practice (first event of the season) and it's the easiest and cheapest way to get there.  It's a longish haul (185 miles) even on a powerful bike, and as so often, I spent a lot of time musing on speed limits.

1.  Most speed limits are reasonably sensible.  My 1200cc bike can top 100mph without much effort, but the rider has to admit he finds it hard work.  I find that for long distance work, 75 to 80 mph is about enough.  More than that, and the rider workload becomes too much.  You are looking out for yellow boxes, cars with blue lights on top or the idiot who hasn't used the mirror but feels it is time to change lanes, NOW!

2. The people who run the roads have the most enormous budget for roadsigns.  Either that or the people who sell the signs or the machinery to make them are some of the best salesmen in the country.  Why else on a fast road would you suddenly have a 30 limit 25 yards before a roundabout and 25 yards after it?  There are areas where you go 30, 40, 30, 50, 40, 30 over a stretch of only a couple of miles.  If that is not designed as a money trap for the local police, then I'm a pink baby elephant.

3.  Most people drive reasonably sensibly anyway.

4.  Lots of people seem to think that the limit on an unrestricted single carriageway is 50mph.  Not so, dear ladies, not so.

5.  My bum gets really sore after 100 miles without a break!

6.  Half the drivers who are chattering too much to pay attention to traffic are male.

Current Location: Shed
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: Mozart piano concerto

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Apr. 3rd, 2008 12:40 pm Lies, damned lies and travel charges

I have to travel to Ireland in a couple of weeks.  It's not difficult to achieve, as long as you have a credit card.

What is difficult to achieve is working out the cost based on "headline" charges.

Let's start with the airline.  The best offer here is probably BMIBaby from Birmingham to Cork.  Birmingham tends to be one of the least nasty of British airports, being cleaner than Heathrow Terminal 1 (not much of a commendation there!) and vastly more efficient than Stansted, which these days manages to make even Terminal 5 at Heathrow seem like an attractive option.

BMI quotes - wait for it...- 4 pence each way.  Wow, what a bargain, how do they do it for the money, etc., etc.  Ah, but there are the taxes.  £32.40, sir, thank you very much, please click "Next" to continue.  Baggage?  Oh dear, that's another £14.  Choose your seat?  Fine.  Click.

Ah, there's another £6.50 clicked up.  Lounge ?  Only £15.

Now a couple of these can be avoided, but there's still even a charge for paying by DEBIT CARD!!!???  I thought the whole point there was that those things  have no collection charge to the merchant.  Am I being conned here?  I think so.

Next I'll need a rental car.  Less sleight of hand here, but the booking confirmation shows three days at a basic rate of £5.67 per day.  Curiously, that multiplies out to £62.20.  I make that some kind of premium of around 265% over the "basic" daily rate.  I know some of it is taxes, but the "basic" charge is NOT useful information in either of these scenarios.

Why don't they just keep it simple.  £55 for a return flight from Birmingham to Cork is not expensive, nor is £62 for three days' car hire.  Why is there a need to dress it up to look like something it isn't.

I have sworn never to buy a new car in the UK because I do not wish to have to wade through the PDI charge, the number plate fee, the delivery charge, the taking the plastic covers off the seats charge, the new nappy for salesman charge, the £75 customer entertainment charge and so on.  If I buy a CD in a shop, I don't expect to pay a cash register charge, a plastic bag charge and a removing the security tag charge.  Why do we put up with this nonsense?

Current Location: Shed
Current Mood: grumpygrumpy
Current Music: hum of distant server fans

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Feb. 29th, 2008 05:40 pm Doctors and the NHS

Big fuss on the news today - apparently doctors have been "taking advantage" of their new NHS contract with the result that they are getting paid an awful lot at the moment.  I have a couple of friends who are doctors, but they look rather older than I do, so clearly the medicine business is not as easy as some people think.

I was struck by the way that the doctor from the BMA who was interviewed on Radio 4 rang rings around the interviewer and the NHS spokesman put up against him.  Clearly the trouble is that doctors are rather more intelligent than the civil servants who "manage" them, and spotted the extent to which the new deal would work to their advantage.  So that's a relief!  Not so much that doctors are getting paid more, but that the clever people are in medicine not in administration.  Look around the country and HOW it shows.

Current Location: shed
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Current Music: none

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Feb. 10th, 2008 02:04 pm Music from National Treasure

I had the privilege the other day of being invited to visit the new organ being installed in the chapel of St John's College, Oxford by Bernard Aubertin.  Mr Aubertin who runs a small organ-building company in eastern France is a National Treasure of France and has received a number of distinctions as a consequence of his work.  How wonderful to live in a country where you are honoured for a particular skill be being denoted a National Treasure.

The National Treasure in person is an energetic and articulate man in early middle-age, who is matter-of-fact about his skills and dismissive of his own considerable competence with the English language.   I suspect that if I worked for him, I would quickly fall into the habit of addressing him as "maitre" - he comes across more as master of an atelier than the managing director of a small business.  Building an organ requires you to be not only of some musical talent, but also a physicist, skilled metal worker, cabinet maker and artist.  The new organ which towers to within a couple of centimetres of the chapel roof is not only wonderful to listen to, but its case is a majestic work of sculpture which is a considerable enhancement to the chapel.

What I enjoyed most was seeing some of the mechanism.  Mr Aubertin builds organs which are entirely mechanical, so that the touch of a key or stop moves levers that turn pulleys that pull rods that open the valves to the relevant pipes.  Under the raised floor of the organ gallery lie a maze of wooden rods and levers connecting the organ manuals with the various (over a thousand) pipes.

The only components that require power are the blower (in its silenced box), the LED light for the organist to see his music and (a nice touch) the CCTV camera and screen that allows the organist, who faces away from the altar, to see a conductor on the floor of the chapel behind him.

I was told that the white keys are faced with sawn ox bone, while the black keys are ebony.  Nobody particularly mentions the beauty of skilled joinery that makes up the various cases, or the visual satisfaction of the organ pipes themselves, where the change in length of a range of pipes describes an elegant curve.

Offered a chance to try it - I declined, not being an organist myself.  I have regretted it ever since.

The following day, we were treated to Mr Aubertin's lecture on the organ and organ building, illustrated by the St John's organ scholar.  Altogether a rare treat!

Current Mood: productive
Current Music: our garden waterfall

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Feb. 8th, 2008 03:41 pm Sharia law? Where's the problem?

Tediously predictable outrage today following the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that the UK will have to grapple with Sharia law at some stage.  No one seems to consider that the sort of people who think that stoning someone to death is a really good punishment will stop to get legal justification for their act.

The truth is that a variety of jurisdictions may apply to almost anyone, anywhere, but only by choice.  If you are a UK citizen living and working in the UK, then your default jurisdiction is UK law.  However, if you are contracting with a US company, even in something as simple as clicking "OK" to signify that you accept a software supplier's terms and conditions, you may actually be accepting that the laws of the United States apply to the transaction.  I don't know, because I mostly don't read them either.

Being married to an Englishwoman, I assume that should my wife and I ever come to legal fisticuffs, again we will do it through the UK family courts.  Were I married to an educated Muslim lady, she might have requested that we marry subject to Sharia law, and we might actually have gone so far as to document the fact.  Under such circumstances, were a Sharia divorce court to award her three quarters of my wealth, it would be difficult for me to set that decision aside if I had agreed to abide by their jurisdiction.  On the other hand, were the court to award her half my wealth and my right leg, the jurisdiction of the main British court system would kick in, and the award would not be allowed as being illegal.

I can see no reason why individuals should not consent to have a dispute settled by a Sharia court, but I also believe that it is possible for people to do that today.  No changes to the UK legal system are necessary, any more than they are necessary to permit me to choose a member of any profession as arbitrator in a professional dispute, or perhaps deal with a church court were I (say) a tenant of the Church of England Estates.

My regrets to those many who imagine the British courts will be overrun or overruled by a load of wooly-headed and wooly-minded fundamentalists, but I fear this is largely a non-issue.

I guess Dr Williams, who is no fool even if he tries to look twenty years older than his true age, is chuckling quitely in Lambeth Palace at the success of his ploy.

Current Location: Shed
Current Mood: listlesslistless
Current Music: certainly not - this is serious!

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Feb. 1st, 2008 09:35 am Resprung

Return of absent sun - having the automatic outside light trigger itself at 10am is really rather miserable.  I can barely see the computer screen for brilliant sunshine.

Still no work, but various prospects may ring today.

Sophos Anti-virus dead on my main disk partition.  I use HyperOs to manage multiple Windows installations on a single PC, and mostly it works well, but something in the latest release is not happy with cloning installations.  Wasted most of yesterday.

I'm just listening to Natasha Spender on Desert Island Discs - rather neat to include one of one's own recordings.  Oh to have that talent (give or take several hours a day practice which I don't do!)


Current Location: Shed
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Shostakovich Prelude no 7

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